Lines of riot police officers in body armor and helmets blocked the streets of central Moscow on Saturday, arresting more than 1,300 demonstrators — chasing some of them down alleys — to blunt a protest over the fairness of coming city elections.
“We love Russia! They love money!” protesters chanted, a reference to widespread anger over government corruption. Others sat in the streets, awaiting arrest and reading copies of the Constitution.
An independent monitoring group said more than 1,300 people were arrested near City Hall, the intended site of the rally, although many never made it there. As in past protests, the authorities began making arrests blocks away so a large crowd could not form.
The protest, which not authorized by the government, was the latest in a series of street demonstrations staged as President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval ratings have dipped amid economic hardship.
The authorities were prepared to suppress Saturday’s rally and its leaders.
Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition leader who had called the demonstration, was arrested on Wednesday and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Other prominent opposition politicians — including Ilya V. Yashin, Dmitry G. Gudkov and Ivan Y. Zhdanov — were also rounded up before the event and released only late in the evening.
The police could be seen spraying some demonstrators with a chemical irritant. One woman, Aleksandra Y. Parushina, bled from a blow to the head with a nightstick.
The Moscow police said that 3,500 people came out for Saturday’s rally, including about 700 journalists and bloggers who had registered beforehand. The number could not be independently verified.
Source: New York Times